Internal Wrangling, Allegations of Corruption Mar Liberia’s Premier Anti-graft Institution
Monrovia – Liberia’s Premier anti-graft institution, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) continues to sink into a sea of one controversy after another since the appointment of its embattled outgoing Executive Chairperson, Cllr, Ndubuisi Nwabudike.
The LACC was established by an act of Legislature on August 28, 2008 with the mandate to investigate and prosecute acts of corruption, as well as educate the public about the ills of corruption and the benefits of its eradication.
But two of the commission’s top officials, Vice Chairperson, Cllr. Kanio Bai Gbala and Current Executive Director Mohammed E. Fahnbulleh are currently wrapped in a web of claims and counter claims over allegations of corruption, unlawful employment and administrative lapses, dampening the institution’s fight against the menace which continues to be ever more prevalent.
The revelation was made following a FrontPage Africa’s publication on Monday, February 15, 2021 of an existing feud between the top guns at the LACC over the decision of outgoing Chairperson’s last minute hiring of new staff, promotion, and renewal of the contract of Executive Director, despite a reported warning against his contract renewal because of his lack of competence by the Board of Directors, something Cllr. Gbala flagged out in an email opposing the renewal of Fahnbulleh’s contract.
Cllr. Gbala also noted that the general staff have also assessed Fahnbulleh as being inefficient on the job.
However, responding to FPA’s publication on Tuesday, Atty. Fahnbulleh unleashed a scathing attack against Cllr. Gbala, alleging that since his appointment by President George Weah, Cllr. Gbala has been involved with series of financial improprieties that warrant his dismissal as per the LACC Act and its rules.
Cllr. Gbala promised to respond but up to the time of publication, he did not get back to FPA.
Detail Allegations against Kanio
Mr. Fahnbulleh alleged that upon Cllr. Gbala’s appointment to the LACC by President George Weah in October 2019, informed the Board at the time that he had quit his job at the UNDP and had tendered in his resignation letter. He was immediately given an official vehicle intended for the deputy chairperson and was also included in the payroll for the month of October.
According to Fahnbulleh, he, however, received information that Cllr. Gbala was still in the employ of the UNDP and was receiving salary for October, November, December and January while also on the LACC’s payroll.
Fahnbulleh cited Article 90(b) of the Constitution which states “No person holding public office shall demand or receive any other pre-requites, emoluments or benefits, directly or indirectly on account of any duty required by government”.
He intimated that the such act on Cllr. Gbala’s part does not exhibit good character and therefore, makes him unfit to serve as vice chairman of the LACC as inscribed in Part 6, Section 6.3 of the LACC’s Act of 2008.
“The vice chairperson demonstrated lack of integrity, lack of honesty and moral standing to continue to work as lead committed practitioner of anti-corruption fight serving under challenging moments to help the government’s Pro-poor Agenda,” Fahnbulleh stated in the memo.
He further accused Cllr. Gbala of receiving daily sustenance allowance (DSA) of L$50,000 and fuel valued at US$1,474.75, and scratch cards also valued at US$300 to travel to Grand Gedeh but never made the trip. According to him, Cllr. Gbala refused to return the money, the fuel and the scratch cards. This was in August 2020.
In the same August 2020, a cash advance of US$500 was given to Cllr. Gbala, according to Fahnbulleh’s memo for MICAT press briefing and he is yet to account for it, despite several requests from the finance unit.
Fahnbulleh: “Mr. Program Manager, the time has come for you and your team to demonstrate courage, consistency, independence and impartiality to the Liberian people, our partners and help change the perception of corruption in Liberia. We should not protect our own and investigate others!”
Meanwhile, Atty. Fahnbulleh having equipped the program manager with his pieces of evidence and list of contacts on the allegations for verification, has instructed him (program manager) to submit his findings to the executive chairperson, Cllr. Nwabudike, on Friday, February 19 for onward submission to President Weah “to exercise his power in keeping with Section 6.8 titled “Removal” which states, A Commissioner shall hold office during good behavior. A Commissioner shall be removed from office by the President for gross breach of duty, misconduct in office or any proven act of corruption.”
The allegations against LACC Vice Chairperson comes on the brink of the troubled Executive Chairperson, Cllr. Nwabudike’s exit from the institution. He has since resigned following public pressure ans is expected to leave by the end of February 2021. Cllr. Gbala has been tipped as the person to replace Nwabudike.
When asked why these scathing attacks against Gbala is being uncovered now, Atty. Fahnbulleh said, as head of the LACC Secretariat, his office has been building up the case against the Vice Chairperson, and it is in no way a form of witch hunt as being perceived in some quarters.
The LACC is made of five commissioners, one of whom is the Executive Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission. The Secretariat is comprised of four program divisions: Education & Prevention Division, Investigation & Enforcement Division, Legal & Prosecution Division and Administration Division, and is headed by an Executive Director, while the program divisions are headed by program managers.